Next month's National Fruit Show in Kent will provide an opportunity for growers to survey the new political and regulatory landscape post the EU referendum. "This momentous decision is opening a door to a new but as yet uncertain world in which to do business," points out show chairman Sarah Calcutt.
With a weaker pound and embryonic UK-only trade policy being formulated, the Department for International Trade's (DIT) food unit "will have a clinic at the show, talking about food export opportunities, explaining the issues that exporters are likely to face such as phytosanitary requirements", she says. "There is a lot of interest in this now people have got over the shock of Brexit, which threw up so much discussion. It got them thinking about what might be possible."
The DIT is also looking for top-fruit growers' opinions in a consultative document aimed at helping formulate policy in production horticulture. "We have also been working on a handbook this year with NFU, AHDB and East Malling Research on what an independent UK crop-protection regime might look like," adds Calcutt.
The show's format is otherwise "broadly the same", she says. "We were just about sold out by mid August, which is amazing as that doesn't usually happen until the end of September. Nearly all the exhibitors from last year are returning, there are several new IT systems for growers and also quite a few exhibitors from the near continent - the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany."
Regular show sponsor and controlled-atmosphere storage specialist ICA will show how its SafePod technology "has the potential to extend the storage life of fresh produce beyond traditional controlled atmosphere capabilities", says a company representative.
The technology is being trialled for apples and asparagus. "SafePod measures the respiratory quotient and respiration of a sample of produce in the store to detect stress. Oxygen levels in the store can then be altered to achieve optimum storage point above the stress level."
Around 20 installations incorporating the technology are planned for the coming season, at AC Goatham & Son, AC Hulme & Sons, Bardsley & Sons and a number of Avalon Produce partners.
Meanwhile, there are currently 25 LabPods - laboratory versions of the SafePod - being trialled for post-harvest research on UK apples at East Malling Research, supporting an Innovate UK project, while a further five are also being used in another Innovate UK project in conjunction with Cranfield University to extend the life of UK asparagus, with one installed on-site at a major asparagus grower.
Fellow show sponsor BASF will explain how the new formulation of its scab fungicide dithianon can benefit apple and pear growers. Intended to be used preventively, Delan Pro contains 125g/litre of dithianon and 561g/litre of potassium phosphonates (phosphite), known as KHP. This new fungicidal active for top fruit in the UK stimulates the production of defensive compounds to protect plants from disease, a process known as systemic acquired resistance. The product is applied from the start of bud burst prior to disease development and used up to a maximum of six applications per year, with a 35-day harvest interval.
Another new formulation that enhances the performance of an existing fruit product is Regalis Plus. The growth regulator prohexadione contains a new built-in water conditioner that allows faster uptake by the plant and also makes it more rainfast, improving the activity. New EAMUs (extensions of authorisation for minor use) have been secured for Regalis Plus on grapes, pears, ornamentals and nursery fruit trees.
BASF is also developing biological controls that can be partnered with conventional chemistry. Agronomy manager for fruit and vegetables Simon Townsend says: "We have a fantastic range of entomopathogenic nematodes targeting key pests, under the banner of Nemasys, that control damaging pests, free from resistance development."
It will be launching a novel solution for codling and tortrix moth control in apples and pears "hopefully next year", he adds. Dispensers containing a female pheromone mating disruptor for each moth are placed throughout the orchard, causing male moths to suffer sensory overload and rendering them unable to find a female for mating. "These dispensers last over five months, so offer season-long disruption of egg laying," says Townsend.
At the Bayer stand, fruit growers will be able to find out about new uses for current products as well as new product developments. Its crown rot fungicide Fenomenal (fenamidone + fosetyl-aluminium) recently gained an extension for application via drip irrigation in tabletop and substrate-grown strawberry crops, while Calypso (thiacloprid), already the cornerstone of pest control in apples, has gained in prominence following the losses of key active substances chlorpyrifos and pirimicarb.
Serenade ASO (Bacillus subtilis strain QST713) is already established as a Botrytis control.
"It's showing potential to limit the spread of fireblight in inoculated pear trials and in blackcurrants lab studies have found it to be highly effective at controlling Phomopsis," says Bayer biologicals product manager Tim Lacey. "In cherries it's shown promising reductions in Monolinia and fruit splitting. Our intention is to introduce a new soft-fruit fungicide and topand soft-fruit insecticide early next year."
Hutchinsons will showcase its improved mini-tractor-mounted Omnia Fruit Vision system, able to count and grade apples while moving through the orchard to instantly calculate yield. Used from early summer, the system can evaluate the need for fruit thinning, explains horticultural director Mike Hutchinson. "Later in the growing season, Fruit Vision can assess crop yields accurately and predict storage volumes. It will give size bands accurately in situ, helping with calculation and location of bins at picking, and with marketing plans."
He adds: "It is very important that we and the grower are 100 per cent confident in the accuracy of the system, hence the long and detailed development phase. This has meant some delays in the full commercial launch but we have been able to commit more time and money to make sure it delivers the best service. We would be interested to hear from growers as to the level of service they would be looking for."
Agrovista, meanwhile, will highlight the latest pest and disease forecasting technology as well as the use of beneficial fungi in orchards at this year's show. Its online disease and pest forecasting service Growers Choice Interactive (GCI) has been successfully applied in UK orchards in recent seasons, the apple scab model in particular proving a reliable prediction tool in what has been a difficult year for the disease, says Agrovista technical head of fruit Paul Bennett. Cider growers are also using GCI to improve crops, "probably driven by the move by two leading cider makers to offer considerable premiums for best-quality fruit", he adds.
Other GCI models include codling moth, canker and fireblight. The programmes ensure sprays are only applied when needed, reducing overall use, lowering costs and benefitting the environment. "The cost savings can be huge, especially with scab and codling control," Bennett maintains.
Kent Fruit Services will demonstrate the airbag orchard sprayer from Dutch manufacturer Munckhof, able to cover three rows in one pass. "It gets over the ground quicker, saving labour and at least one extra tractor, sprayer and driver," says director Peter Kelly. The Canterbury company will also show Munckhof's Pluk-O-Trak apple and pear harvesting machine, which increases pickers' efficiency by conveying fruit gently to the bins via automatic picking arms, reducing picking costs by up to a third and eliminating the need for steps or platforms, he adds.
Grower equipment supplier Agricare will launch the new Electrocoup F3015, the latest version of the electric secateurs originally introduced by Infaco in 1984. "We also have the ideal alternative to traditional creosoted posts - the Carmo post," says sales manager Roy Clarke. Portuguese engineers spent two years developing the metal posts' design with growers. "We have also become one of the industry's main suppliers of irrigation products in the South East, including the NaanDanJain range," Clarke adds.
In fruit trees, Frank P Matthews (FPM) has become UK agent for Dutch nursery Botden & van Willegen, which is also exhibiting. "FPM are excited about the future of this partnership," says assistant managing director Stephanie Dunn James. The move follows the retirement of Botgen's UK agent Will Seabrook. He will be one of a number of industry figures bowing out at this year's event, alongside English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow and show vice-president Robert Oliver.
The show does not end at the Kent Event Centre, Calcutt points out. "The show's excellent year-round education programme is already reaching out to the next generation of apple and pear eaters to get the industry's message across in such a way that we can be assured of a long-term flow of future customers."
National Fruit Show
Where: Kent Event Centre, Kent Showground, Detling, Maidstone, Kent ME14
When: 19 October (10am-5.30pm) and 20 October (10am-3.30pm)
Tel: 01732 874564